Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wanted: Bird Bath

It's great that Spring has finally arrived.  After a long winter, it is refreshing that the leaves are green and flowers are blooming.  I get excited about being out in my yard where I can plant, prune and appreciate God's creations.  It takes some time and hard work to keep up with things in the yard, but I do enjoy it.

Every Spring I try to do something new and usually replace something old.  I had to replace some broken pots this year and I had an open space that needed some type of garden ornament or statute.  Since many ornaments are borderline weird or creepy, I like bird baths as they are nice to look at and no one will ask me, "what's that?"  So two weeks ago I embarked on a Saturday morning journey to find a bird bath at a garage or estate sale.  I visited several sales and for about 2 hours made my way through a neighborhood sale that seemed to go on and on.  Finally, as I was almost resigned to defeat, I stopped at one last estate sale after seeing a road sign.  As I pulled up, I saw it.  It was out in front waiting for me.  After a quick negotiation, it was mine.  Mission accomplished.

As I paid the man, I remarked that I could have saved myself lots of time and gas if I would have started at his sale.  Reflecting on this experience and statement, it reminds me of our journey of faith.  Many times we have to sift through times of disappointment and frustration before we experience an answer to prayer or even discover God's will for a situation.  It would be so much easier if we could just skip over that period of time and have the instant answer.  But would that require much faith?

One major point of growth for me over the last few years as a father, husband and pastor is to learn to enjoy the journey.  Because even when it is challenging and disappointing, God is growing us along the way.  Plus, the reward at the end is all the more satisfying.

Friday, March 7, 2014

What I heard at Dunkin Doughnuts this morning...

I love my new office at our 11010 location.  But since I really didn't have an office for the first 10 years of the church, I became accustomed to setting up shop at Panera or other locations.  Now, with a Dunkin Donuts so close to our church, it's hard not to camp out there a couple days a week.

Today, I have spent the morning and early afternoon working at Dunkin Donuts and it has been a busy place with lots of people meeting for business and pleasure.  I couldn't help but overhear one of the conversations about church at a table nearby.  One person expressed how sometimes church is just a sermon and songs, but at other times, you really connect with God through the sermon.  I think this is a common feeling for people on their spiritual journey.  They want to have an emotional and spiritual connection every Sunday.  And sometimes that happens while other times, not so much.

This reminded me of the one thing that all of us periodically miss in this process.   We forget that the church - a body of believers working together to accomplish the dream of God - is more than just a service and much more than a good sermon.  Although we all want to receive something, what happens if we approach church activities and services as an opportunity to give?  If we are ready to pray, encourage or bless someone else?  The possibilities are endless.  And most would walk away from church feeling encouraged and blessed.  Not just because they felt the sermon was for them, but also because they were used by God to build up someone else.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Live to Give

This month our church is going through a series on generosity.  So, we as a church have been looking for ways to give back to our community.  One idea that we had was to deliver cookies to nearby businesses in order to introduce ourselves.  We order Eileen's cookies and then sent people out to as many businesses that we could connect with in two afternoons.  It's amazing how quickly cookies with sprinkles can produce a smile. Even more, people wanted to talk (without cookies in their mouth).  The generous act moved them to stop what they were doing and enjoy the moment.  What's even better is that today we received flowers from one of the businesses that we shared cookies with.  Generosity not only produces smiles, but also generates more giving.
How can you be generous in your everyday life?  Maybe its not baking some cookies (frankly that's not something I should be generous with) but we all have something we can give.  We all have talents to share, experience in life or something practical that could fulfill a need.  I believe many people just want others to spend time listening to them.  You would be surprised how people would respond to you if you just gave them your time.
It's time to reverse the trend of "living to get" and embrace a more rewarding lifestyle of "living to give."  Give it a shot.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living in a Lego World

A couple weeks ago, I went to the theatre with two kids and watched the Lego Movie.  I laughed so hard and had so much fun!  Throughout this movie, the song, "Everything is Awesome" was sung by the many glorious lego figures.  Not surprisingly, my son and I sang that song over and over again for the next few days until my wife nearly lost her mind.

As I keep thinking back to this movie and the joy and laughter that flowed out of that theatre, I wondered if living in a lego world is even possible?  Let's face it, the night news is 28 minutes of not-so-awesome followed by a 2 minute story of inspiration or humor.  So is Legoland only in California?  Is it only found on the carpet of our kids rooms?

I love the fourth chapter of Philippians where an amazing man named Paul said, "Rejoice and again I say rejoice!"  Cheesy?  Unrealistic?  Maybe at first glance.  But what's crazy is that Paul was sitting in prison with an uncertain future (possible death) when he penned those words two thousand years ago.  Where did this joy come from?  The knowledge that God is real, loves us unconditionally and wants a relationship with us.  So much that he gave is son Jesus Christ and had him die a terrible death so we could experience the pure joy of living without sin and shame.  Now that is awesome.

Maybe living in a lego world where "everything is awesome" is a little out of touch and slightly annoying (just ask my wife).  But trust me, a life surrendered to Christ and lived out with pure joy is worth building.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Attitude is everything

Today I had an unexpected phone call.  The organization that we collected food for was at the church and ready to load it all up.  One problem: nobody was there to open up the church.  I thought I would have a heads up on a time, but that was lost in the shuffle.  I explained to the driver that I would hurry over and help open up and get the food into the truck.

I have to admit that the unexpected interruption was one of many for me today.  I wasn't accomplishing any of what I had hoped.  So, what should have been a joyous experience was more of a "let's get this over with."  We have all been there, right?

Reflecting back on it, I realized that my poor attitude kept me from experiencing a real blessing.  The blessing of watching boxes and bags of donated food be delivered to the needy.  It reminded me of a passage in Philippians that says, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done."  What do I need?  A better attitude and a thankful heart.  Next time I'll remember that what I'm missing out it isn't nearly as important as what's in front of me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Because one person spoke up...

For my birthday this year, my wife gave me a subscription to  Putting together my family tree is something I've talked about for a while but never followed through with.  Since my Father (who is a historian) has completed a great deal of research, I have loads of information to utilize in this process.  The history of the Newlands in particular is quite detailed.  As a result, as I'm plugging information into my tree, I'm discovering stories in my history that are interesting and jaw-dropping.  For instance, I found out that my Great-Great Grandmother Gibbs had six children.  But after the fourth, she lost her arm to a gun accident.  Not only did she raise six children with one arm, but because  one of her oldest died early in life, she raised three grandchildren as well.  With one arm!  I can barely handle two kids with two arms.

Last night I was continuing to add names to the Newland tree and made it back to the mid 17th century when my family was settled in Ireland - just before they immigrated to America.  Nicholas Newlin (name was changed when he immigrated and later changed back) was a Quaker and came to America to escape religious persecution.  What's amazing are the events that precluded our arrival in 1682.  This is what our family records recounts:
"Tradition says that the family of Nicholas Newland were living in Ireland at the time of the massacre of the English Protestant settlers by Irish Catholics in October, 1641.  An Irish servant girl was observed to be uneasy and troubled in mind about something and being questioned as to the cause, she confessed that such a plot existed and that the family were to share the fate intended for the other English settlers.  They fled to the woods and finally succeeded in reaching Dublin, thus escaping the fate that overtook most of their countrymen.  The number of victims who perished in this massacre estimated from 4,000 to 40,000 people."

Wow.  I was blown away by this story.  Needless to say, I have been thinking about the ramifications of this account since I first read it.  The reason the Newland family made it out of Ireland alive is because of one Irish servant girl who chose to speak up.  If she had not shared these facts, the Newland family may not have made it to America.  Instead, she spoke up and I am here today.  My kids are here today because one girl spoke up and warned my ancestors.

As a follower of Christ, I know that I am called to love God and others.  To help the poor and needy.  And to give a voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves.  God has given me a voice and a point of influence to make a difference.  I have to speak up so that many can hear my voice.  Because as I now realize, one person speaking up can change history.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the Edge of My Seat

Several months ago my wife and I went to the theatre to watch the movie, Zero Dark Thirty.  The movie chronicled the long journey of the CIA and US military to catch Bin Ladden.  The acting and writing were terrific.  And even though we knew the outcome, my wife and I were literally on the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen next.  

Its nice when you know what the outcome will be in a movie or in life.  But in our spiritual journey, we often find ourselves wondering and waiting to see how God will work things out.  As our church continues to wait on God for a new building and space to meet, I find that I'm not wondering so much as waiting with anticipation.  I'm on the edge of my seat and can't wait to see how God will answer our prayers.  I'm confident, like Abraham, that God will follow through on his promises.  In Romans 4:20, Paul reminds us of the confident anticipation of Abraham.  Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. "In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises."  

I'm fully convinced that at just the right time, God will come through.  Then, I'll no longer be on the edge of my seat - I'll be jumping for joy.